As Black History Month comes to a close, we should be reminded that everything remembered, honored and celebrated during February doesn’t stop or come to an end as we flip the calendar to a new month. To echo the sentiment Oprah Winfrey shared in her tribute message on Instagram to kick off the start of Black History Month this year, "I have a wonderful phrase that Maya Angelou wrote in one of her poems. It said 'I come as one, but I stand as 10,000.' I'm doing that right now ... I don't reserve it for one month. I believe that Black history is a part of every day, every life, every year, all the time."
It’s time to reflect on the ways celebrating Black history and culture should carry over beyond the 28 or 29 days of February, to make Black history and culture a part of our everyday, regular life. And that extends into our work lives as well.
Read on to discover four ways businesses can celebrate black history and culture at work year round.
1. Foster Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace
There is no one-size-fits-all model when it comes to building a diverse workplace and it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes progressive work and there will be many learnings as well as challenges along the way. It starts by truly understanding the value diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) contributes to the overall success of your business and how it factors into every level of your organization. From attracting, hiring, retaining, training and developing your talent to working DEI into your core values and in the everyday work-life processes, the work of creating a diverse and inclusive workplace is ongoing and a company-wide effort.
As an ongoing process, there will be a lot to consider and finding ways to incorporate
DEI initiatives into the macro and micro levels of your organization. Some of these DEI initiatives can include:
- Promoting the use of unbiased language
- Creating safe places
- Facilitating difficult conversations
- Addressing workplace inequality
- Talking openly about conscious and unconscious bias
- Building effective allyship skills on teams
- Launching a DEI employee resource group or committee
To learn how to build a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion in your workplace, check out this blog.
2. Support Black-Owned and Black-Run Businesses and Nonprofit Organizations
There are a lot of black-owned and black-run businesses out there, but unfortunately many of them lack the financial and public support to thrive. Look at all the ways you can support these businesses at every level of your organization.
From vendors, partners and suppliers to local restaurants, catering companies and other small businesses, supporting black-owned businesses means building up communities and setting them up to succeed. Your support will also lead to creating more jobs and opportunities and to closing the racial economic gap.
What about organizations in your industry, all the nonprofit groups and charities that are working tirelessly to elevate Black professionals? Donating to these groups, inviting them to give workshops and talks in your workplace or supporting them in other ways, such as volunteering, will go a long way in empowering black professionals and communities in your area of business. Lending a hand to these nonprofit organizations can also lead to partnerships and create opportunities for internship and apprenticeship programs.
3. Promote the Power of Storytelling
Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to inspire, reach and influence others. It’s also an effective way to bring people together. That’s why sharing Black stories and experiences—both internally and externally—should be a regular part of your content creation, social conversations and diversity initiatives.
There are many ways to foster a sense of belonging in the workplace through storytelling. Continue to celebrate the achievements of people in your industry and shine a spotlight on the work of pioneers and current black leaders who have opened doors and continue to leave them open for others. Invite guest speakers to your workplace, host fireside chats and keep a constant rotation of resources, recommendations and activities available to your people, including books, podcasts, playlists, films and art.
Do you know about these 10 business and tech Black pioneers?
4. Create Pathways Toward Black Futures
It’s important to honor Black achievements, but it’s not enough. There is still so much more that needs to be done in terms of creating a future others still can’t see—freedom from institutionalized racism that keeps others from achieving equal access and opportunities, especially in the workplace.
Creating pathways toward black futures and work environments where everyone is seen, valued and appreciated involves empowering growth and professional development for everyone. This can include having support channels in place, developing employee recognition programs and partnering with other organizations furthering the advancement of Black professionals to create more pathways for their careers.
Click here to see what Black women leaders are reading.
Every Month Is Black History Month
Black History Month is never over. Celebrating Black history and culture is a year-round event. Being committed to diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace means ensuring that these stories, voices and experiences live in our everyday structures, policies and organizational cultures.